By Karen Wang
On Saturday, March 24, millions of people marched in over 800 organized events around the world to protest for more stringent American gun laws. Saturday’s demonstrations were a historic show of the ability of young Americans to mobilize and demand change from their political representatives.
The event was largely planned and organized by the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where a gunman murdered 17 students on February 14th.
The march comes on the tailend of the success of March 14’s National Walkout Day, where millions of American students left their classrooms for 17 minutes in honor of the MSD shooting victims. A second national school walkout has already been scheduled for April 20th, the anniversary of the Columbine shooting.
Several celebrities, including Paul McCarthy, whose bandmate, John Lennon, was murdered in gun violence, also participated in the demonstrations. Many famous musicians, such as Ariana Grande and Miley Cyrus, performed and shared the stage with 20 student speakers in the nation’s capital.
According to NBC, an estimated 800,000 people attended the march in Washington DC, and a majority of the participants were teenagers and students, with teachers, parents, and other adults mixed in as well.
A recurring theme between speakers at all of the marches was an emphasis on change and the necessity of young people to vote to have their voices heard. Repeated chants of “Vote them out!” preceded the demonstrations in Washington. Student speakers also strongly urged their fellow students to register and to vote this November.
Speakers asked for students to vote out politicians who receive large donations and other funding from the National Rifle Association. Many also called for universal background checks as well as a ban on the sale of assault rifles.
Several speakers also made sure to refer to the march as a “non-partisan” event, stating that the demonstrations are fundamentally “Pro-Life” and that they address an “American issue,” not a liberal or conservative one.
In a surprise appearance, Dr. Martin Luther King’s 9-year-old granddaughter, Yolanda, took the stage to echo her grandfather’s famous words.
“My grandfather had a dream that his four children would not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream that enough is enough and that this should be a gun free world. Period,” she said (NBC).
Although President Trump and many legislators were not in town for the march in Washington, the Justice Department proposed a ban on bump stocks, a device that enables certain guns to become fully automatic, on Friday. According to the New York Times, Trump has largely ignored the proposal, instead signing a spending bill that only includes a few background check and school safety measures.
Opposition marches to protect the Second Amendment were also held, according to the New York Times. One of the opposition protesters held a sign that said “What can we do to stop mass shootings? SHOOT BACK.”
Many political commentators and experts have hailed the Marjory Stoneman Douglas students for their political activism, while also emphasizing that real political change may take several years, even after this November’s midterms.